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Experts Develop Assessment of Critical Thinking

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) hosts panel on assessing in-demand knowledge and skills

In a rapidly changing economy, students with in-demand, transportable skills – including problem solving, critical and creative thinking, collaboration, communication, and ethical reasoning – are most likely to thrive throughout their education and careers. But until now, high school tests have not provided employers or institutions of higher education information necessary to confirm graduates’ competencies in these areas.

PLTW is delivering holistic and relevant assessments that are gaining attention from industry experts and higher education administrators from around the nation.

“As a nation, we have a tremendous gap between what we teach and how we assess students and what is in high demand in the workforce,” said PLTW President and Chief Executive Officer Vince Bertram. “We have millions of students developing knowledge and skills that will position them for success no matter what career path they choose, and now they have a meaningful way to demonstrate that mastery to employers or college admissions officers.”

PLTW offers a first-of-its-kind summative assessment that measures both subject-matter knowledge and mastery of in-demand, transportable skills. The new End-of-Course (EoC) Assessments were first available for the 2018-19 school year and were designed with insights and validation from a coalition of secondary educators, higher education representatives, and industry experts.

PLTW is again gathering experts from these sectors for even more insight and validation regarding ways to meaningfully assess students’ skills that are in high demand by the higher education and business communities – the ability to think critically and creatively. Companies such as Ascension, Dow Chemical, John Deere, Chevron, Toyota, Lockheed Martin, Astellas, Pondurance, Bosch, National Instruments, Sanford Research, and Eli Lilly have all been partners in this work. PLTW is especially proud to partner with Ascension for the purpose of developing innovative task models and simulations to measure ethics and critical and creative thinking.

“PLTW Assessments are profoundly different, marking a paradigm shift for assessments. We took a fundamental look at the type of expertise and experience that we needed to consult to fulfil our aims in rearchitecting these tests,” said Michelle Gough, senior vice president and chief legal and assessment officer for PLTW. “We have had in-person, multi-day collaborations that connect industry professionals, faculty from higher education, and our PLTW teachers. The result of our novel design process is the development of more nuanced and more engaging multidimensional test experiences that enable a holistic assessment of critical skills valued by all.”

Student assessment is at the forefront of the conversation around education, and PLTW continues to lead the way in innovative and relevant assessment that connects our classrooms to careers. On Sept. 12, Bertram will join leaders from leading education organizations to discuss “The Link Between Assessment and Achievement” at BMO’s Back-t0-School Conference in New York City. They will discuss how assessment is evolving as it relates to integration of instruction, the impact of technology, and how it can ultimately impact the core of teaching and learning.

About PLTW

Project Lead The Way (PLTW) is a nonprofit organization that provides a transformative learning experience for PreK-12 students and teachers across the U.S. PLTW empowers students to develop in-demand, transportable knowledge and skills through pathways in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. PLTW’s teacher training and resources support teachers as they engage their students in real-world learning. Approximately 11,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia offer PLTW programs. For more information on Project Lead The Way, visit




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